Last week, Helix’s confined space rescue team held their quarterly safety training in Lakeside in conjunction with Heartland Fire’s Rescue Engine 12 crew from La Mesa.

Confined spaces are areas large enough for employees to enter and perform work, are not intended for continued occupancy, and have restricted entry and exit points.

Helix has a variety of confined spaces including pipelines, water storage tanks and underground vaults. District staff regularly enters these spaces for inspections and maintenance to ensure the integrity of our infrastructure. There are 37 miles of pipe 30-inches and larger in diameter, a portion of which is inspected from the inside annually.

To ensure workers stay safe, Helix follows Cal/OSHA safety protocols that include permit issuance, continuous air monitoring, ventilation, the use of harnesses and retrieval systems, emergency whistles and stand-by rescue personnel on site. \

The rescue personnel are members of the district’s confined space rescue team. The team is made up of nine volunteer employees who receive no extra compensation for these duties. Although OSHA requires annual drills, Helix’s team conducts quarterly drills and training to ensure everyone is prepared in case an emergency arises during confined space work.

Captain Tom Brown, firefighter/paramedic Kyle Tasco and engineer Scott Norris, Heartland Fire’s Rescue Engine 12 crew from La Mesa, practice maneuvering themselves and their rescue equipment through the tight confines of a 36-inch pipe.

Firefighters pause for a photo inside a Helix water main.